Open Field Tackling Techniques
- Updated: July 26, 2016
Open Field Tackling Techniques in Youth Football
Open field tackling techniques are difficult to execute successfully at any age level of football. It is even more difficult to tackle in the open field when the ball carrier is a good athlete. Here are some tips on how to get your youth football players tackling in the open field:
1.Take a Good Angle
It is important that the defenders take good angles to the ball carrier when using open field tackling techniques. You do not want your players overrunning or under running the ball carrier. You should do angle tackling drills every single practice. To avoid huge collisions when doing angle drills, just have your players form tackle the ball carrier. Teach your players to take good pursuit angles to the ball carrier. Even if the ball carrier has good speed your defenders can still run him down by taking a good angle.
2.Run Under Control/ Aiming Point
Many times you will see defenders take a good angle to the ball carrier but they will over run the ball carrier. The RB will just cut it inside. It is important that defender runs under control and breaks down. One of the most critical open field tackling techniques is making the aiming point the inside hip of the ball carrier. Say the ball carrier gets a toss outside to the right (defense’s left) the aiming point of the pursuing defenders needs to be the running back’s left inside hip towards the defender.
The aiming point is the inside hip of the running back because if the running back tries to cut inside, your defender is right there. Watching the inside hip will allow your defender to stay on their pursuit angle path. This is important because the ball carrier might fake cutting in and try to outrun the defender. Running under control (not over running, keeping feet under you) and keeping eyes on the inside hip will make sure your defender does not fall or lose balance when the ball carrier fakes or tries to make a move.
Also, make sure when your defender initiates the contact his head is up! The tackling defender’s shoulder pad needs to get into the ball carrier’s inside hip and the head is across the ball carrier’s body. We have a rule for our defenders: if your head does not get across the body of the ball carrier it is considered an arm tackle. When our defense arm tackles we do push-ups. Putting an enthuses on getting the head across the body will teach the kids not to lounge or leave their feet. It will make them use their feet and run through the ball carrier.
3. Be smart
Successful open field tackling tackling sometimes just requires your players to be smart. Teach your defenders to understand where they are on the football field and where their help is coming from. Say a cornerback is pressed up for run support, he has to know that he has no defenders outside or behind him. That means he needs to force the running back inside. Say a linebacker is running to the ball carrier and he knows he has help outside, he then needs to spill the ball carrier outside to the corners/safeties playing hard run support. Make sure your defenders understand your scheme and what their responsibilities are. Long story short, defenders need to have field awareness and know where their help is so they can turn the ball carrier to pursuing defenders.
Good coaching also factors into whether or not your team tackles well in space. Make your defense understand that the sidelines is like another defender, do not be scared to string the RB outside (make him run laterally) and force the RB out of bounds. This is especially important for boundary side cornerbacks (short side of the field corner) because there is less field. Wide side CB needs to force the play inside. Short side CB (boundary corner) can play a little bit more aggressive because there is less field for the ball carrier to work with- it is less distance the pursuing defenders need to run.
4. Pursuit to the Football
Team pursuit is probably the biggest overlooked coaching point when teaching open field tackling. You have to instill the defensive mentality that we need to get to the ball carrier. Our motto on defense is “swarm”. Proper pursuit will help deter big plays in the open field. All players have to fly to the football and do not assume their teammates will make the tackle. Many times a safety or CB will slow up or get a piece of the running back in the open field, but if no one else hustles to the ball carrier the running back can score.
Relentless pursuit is a trait of any successful defense. Swarming to the football will deter big plays and will help with open field tackling. In the open field odds are the running back will break a tackle or make someone miss in space. If your defenders are running to the ball they can usually run down the defender after one defender slows or alters the running back’s path. Sometimes the best open field tackling technique is good team defensive hustle and swarm to the ball carrier.
Listen, open field tackling is tough and doesn’t happen on a consistent basis. We tell our players to make sure you get a piece of the RB and try to grab cloth to slow him down so our pursuit can clean it up.
Open Field Tackling Techniques Summary:
- Take good angles to the football.
- Run under control. Players need to keep their feet under them and maintain balance.
- The aiming point is always the inside hip of the ball carrier. Do not want to get caught looking at the head, shoulders, or the feet of the running back. Do not get caught up in the head and shoulder fakes a RB will throw at you in the open field. Defenders need to get their head across the body, shoulder pad through the inside hip, head up, and grab cloth (jersey) as you wrap up.
- Be smart, understand and know where your help is on the field.
- Team pursuit is the best form of open field tackling. Run or pass, teach your players to get to the football. Never assume your teammate will make the tackle in the open field.
Here is an excellent article about the 5 fundamentals of youth football defense.
Here is an article on Proper Tackling Technique